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Why house sitting could be the perfect way for pet lovers to travel

With perks like free accommodation and new furry friends to make, house sitting could be the way to travel – or even live! – for you. The Local looks at the three types of house sitter and why you should try it out.

Why house sitting could be the perfect way for pet lovers to travel
Love pets, love travel? Maybe house sitting is for you. Photo: Getty Images

With house sitting you could be staying in a Scottish mansion one month, minding donkeys and geese on a remote farm the next, explain full-time house sitters Trevor Young and Els Mahieu from their current house sit by the beach in Portugal.

“House sitting is a great way of life. It restores your faith in humanity. Despite what’s in the news, I can say, well, most people are actually nice,” says Belgium-born Els, a member of international platform TrustedHousesitters.

You’ve probably already heard of house sitting but are you wondering what it actually involves? The arrangement means staying in someone’s home while looking after the house and its furry (or scaly or feathered!) residents. TrustedHousesitters connects home owners and house sitters and is unique in that there is no payment between sitters and pet parents (the homeowners) – it’s all about a win-win mutual arrangement that suits the owners, sitters and pets.

Platforms like TrustedHousesitters have become more convenient and suitable for increasing numbers of both pet parents and house sitters. This is because of the rise in pet ownership during pandemic lockdowns, coupled with the reopening of international travel and the increase in remote working opportunities.

Who is it for? 

House sitting is a two-way set-up that means pet owners have their animals cared for while they are out of town, while sitters get free accommodation – plus the companionship and joy that comes from caring for a pet.

While a love of animals goes without saying, these three types of house sitter are popular among TrustedHousesitters‘ community of 120,000 pet parents and house sitters:

  1. Retiree
  2. Remote worker
  3. Savvy traveller 

Love travel and pets? Look after homes and make new furry friends around the world – and get 25% off here using code LOCAL25

House sitters tend to be any or all of these types, and there is usually crossover. 

The member profiles of TrustedHousesitters is an amalgamation of people who are house sitting for all kinds of reasons and in all kinds of situations. 

Some are remote workers who can’t commit to having a pet of their own but absolutely love spending time with animals. Others are retired and looking for an affordable way to see the world. 

The flexibility that comes with being retired or a remote worker obviously makes the house sitting lifestyle an easier one. It means you can jump on those house sit opportunities without needing to schedule time off around school holidays or work commitments.

With all kinds of homes available across the globe, those looking for affordable and authentic travel are also well-suited to house sitting. Some sitters, like UK-native Nigel Lovell (a savvy traveller and animal lover), even use platforms like TrustedHousesitters to ‘travel’ in their own cities. 

Savvy traveller and animal lover Nigel.

Nigel has lived in Barcelona since 1998 but uses house sitting as a means to explore other neighbourhoods in the city he now calls home. “So part of the advantage is that I actually get to know my own city in a different way.”

The other big reason? His love of animals. After his French bulldog passed away, Nigel now relishes the chance to spend time with other pets when he house sits, without the full-time commitment of pet ownership. 

This animal-loving personality is extremely important for all house sitters. 

“It’s really all about the animals, they come first. We don’t look at it as being a holiday,” says Trevor, a semi-retired remote worker with a love for travel and animals who’s been house sitting since 2014. 

“We spend a lot of time with the animals, but yet we still experience the city, the locality. We want to experience a local community. So we work part-time online, which gives us the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the animals.”

Discover the world of house sitting, where you can have authentic international travel experiences while minding pets.

Couple Trevor and Els have travelled the world house sitting and making new animal friends.

Why you should try it, and how

From manors to beach shacks, city apartments to rural cottages, you could find yourself staying in all kinds of places (and looking after all kinds of animals). 

An obvious benefit to being a sitter is the free accommodation, whether you’re working, retired or travelling. But the perks stretch beyond simply free digs, say the three TrustedHousesitters members we speak to.

While the sitters will reflect on the location, they always remember the animal and ultimately their stories of memorable experiences come down to the pet. That loveable blind labrador in Yorkshire, or the escape artist rabbit in the Spanish countryside.

Nigel, who has looked after cute pets around the world 60 times in the past four and a half years, says house sitting can be a chance to experience your home city or even a familiar place, in a new light. 

“Maybe you’ve got to work or study… I find sometimes changing my environment inspires me differently. So you know, if I’ve got something creative that I need to do, maybe working in a different house in a different area, can give inspiration.”

The way TrustedHousesitters works is that pet owners and house sitters pay an annual subscription fee to the platform for unlimited house sitters or house sitting stays. Homeowners set up profiles of themselves, including details of their home and their pet as well as dates they need house sitters for. Potential house sitters peruse the site and apply for the house sitting gigs they like the look of. Homeowners then choose candidates based on their sitter profiles and reviews from other owners. Usually there is a video call and some messaging to make sure you are the right fit for each other before final arrangements are made. 

How it works from there is up to the homeowner and house sitter. Some people want daily updates and photos of their pets, for example, explain Trevor and Els, while others would prefer to only hear from you if there is an emergency. 

It’s not all cats and dogs. Trevor has had memorable experiences caring for all kinds of animals, in all kinds of locations.

What to expect: tips for first-timers

Regardless of what sitter type you are, the care for the animals is extremely important. Fantastic new places and experiences aside, looking after the pet or pets is the reason you are there in the first place! 

“I think you have to love animals … as enjoyable as it is – and it really is enjoyable, we love the lifestyle – you’ve got responsibilities,” says Els, who along with partner Trevor, has more than 40 five-star reviews on TrustedHousesitters. The pair say keeping up with the routine of the pets is important and something they prioritise, to ensure the pet feels comfortable. 

The other words of wisdom from Trevor, Els and Nigel are to start out with house sits close to home. If you want to get chosen by a homeowner, you’re going to need reviews. “When you see all these beautiful ads on TrustedHousesitters, like a villa with a swimming pool in France, there’s going be loads of applicants. So it’s important that you have reviews to increase your chances of getting the house sit. 

“So start local. Wherever you live there’s bound to be somewhere close-by. That way you will build up reviews and you can use them for those dream sits.”

Els also suggests downloading the TrustedHousesitters app so you can monitor ads as they go up and apply straight away. You can even set an alert for the country and dates you’re interested in. “You have to be really quick!” she says. 

“It’s also good to be flexible,” say Trevor and Els. Sometimes the offer of a month-long sit could extend to six weeks or more, for example. And that flexibility extends to how you interact with the homeowners. Open and flexible communication is key. “You are essentially parachuting into their lives,” says Trevor.

It’s also important to consider if the house sit is suitable for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a house tour via video call or for some more photos of the home. And if you’re a remote worker, for example, double check the internet is reliable. 

Another important tip from the couple is to be mindful of your visa and work regulations. With international house sits on the horizon for them (including Thailand early next year), they’re conscious it is important to be aware of restrictions and requirements in the countries you are planning to visit. 

Nigel works really hard to be a good, responsible sitter. He keeps an open dialogue with owners so they can feel reassured and enjoy their time away from their home and pet. He even suggests taking photos of the home when you arrive so you can leave everything as it was. To be successful at house sitting, he sums things up nicely with the tip to simply “be the kind of sitter that you would like in your home”.

TrustedHousesitters connects verified and reviewed sitters with homeowners around the world. Find out how to become a sitter and enjoy 25% off with code LOCAL25

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CHRISTMAS

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022

As Christmas approaches, towns and cities across France get into the festive spirit. Here’s our list of go-to seasonal markets, fetes and fairs

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022

Nancy

An early start to the seasonal celebrations in Nancy, as the city’s St Nicholas’ festival kicks off on November 18th, and runs to January 3rd.

St Nicolas Day – December 6th – is a huge deal in Germany, and because of historic links to Germany many areas of north east France celebrate it as well.

In Nancy they combine St Nicolas and Christmas into a 40-day celebration which features a Christmas market, ferris wheel, ice rink artistic tours through the towns, and – on the weekend of December 3rd – a parade celebrating the patron saint of Lorraine.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg has got pretty good at running Christmas markets over the years – it has been doing it since around 1570 and they brand themselves the ‘Christmas capital of France’. This year’s celebrations kick off on November 25th and run to January 2nd – and the tree is already in place in Place Kleber. 

This year, 300 chalets will host local artisans selling Christmas gift ideas on the Grande Île, while the streets will be festooned with illuminations celebrating a very Alsace Christmas. The markets will close on December 24th, but the Village de l’Avent will continue into the New Year.

Organisers say they want the market to be more traditional this year, and have banned a long list of items that are either not local or were deemed ‘too tacky’.

READ ALSO Champagne, tartiflette and dog toys banned from 2022 Strasbourg Christmas market

Colmar

Strasbourg likes to boast that it is France’s ‘Christmas capital’. But, though smaller Colmar, less than an hour down the A35, has a Christmas market that’s perfectly formed – and less hectic, but still enjoys those Alsace-Lorraine festive traditions. It runs from November 24th to December 29th this year.

Eguisheim

Sticking in the Christmas-loving north-east of France, medieval Eguisheim – with colourful Alsatian houses around the castle is a must-visit. Its authentic and traditional Christmas market is an opportunity to discover the local gastronomic products and enjoy a glass of vin chaud with the villagers.

The Christmas market, along with the Ronde de Noël on the town ramparts, begins on November 25th and runs until December 30th.

Mulhouse

Mulhouse’s Christmas market takes place in a sea of Christmas fabric. Almost 10km of festive material decorate the frontages, monuments and pedestrian streets in the city’s historical centre for the celebrations, which kick off on November 24th and run to December 27th.

Try Alsatian sweets such as the Berawecka – a spongy cake with pears, plums, figs and kirsch – or the Pebkucha – a cake with honey and spices – and get handcrafted products such as wooden toys or Christmas decorations. 

READ ALSO Eight of the best winter experiences in France

Nice

In case you were thinking Christmas celebrations in France were limited to the northeast of the country, Nice’s annual festivities run from December 3rd to January 2nd and bring a little southern flavour.

It’s not a Christmas speciality, but while you’re there definitely try the local socca bread.

Mouans-Sartoux

In fact, the south of France has a Christmas tradition all its own, celebrated in Mouans-Sartoux – the Foire aux Santons opened on November 4th and runs until December 24th. As well as the traditional mini-figures, used to populate seasonal creches, there will be a Christmas market, light festival and other events to celebrate. 

Lyon

Another one on a slightly different note, Lyon’s Fête des Lumières is a magnificent event which has made the reputation of the city. 

Between December 8th and 11th, the Fête des Lumières invites visitors from across the world to enjoy enchanting walks in a setting of 46 lights and sound creations. 

There’s also a more traditional Christmas market with 90 illuminated chalets which offer local products and arts and crafts. Lyon is known as the foodie capital of France, so enjoy superior food at the market.

Montbéliard

Montbéliard, on France’s border with Switzerland, calls its market “the Lights of Christmas”. During the advent period, from November 26th to December 24th, its picturesque city centre is illuminated with thousands of lights. 

The market gathers 160 craftsmen who sell authentic and traditional products. The good fairy of the Pays de Montbéliard Aunt Airie keeps local traditions going by telling her story to the children. 

Lille

Lille starts celebrating Christmas on November 18th, and doesn’t stop until December 30th.

Around 900,000 visitors a year head to the charming Christmas market in Flanders’ capital, which is set to feature more local artisans and traders, as well as those from regions of France, Poland, Canada, and Germany.

Paris

The capital hosts several Christmas markets. Opposite the Eiffel Tower, for example, 60 wooden chalets spring up, where – between December 16th and January 2nd – artisans sell craft products and culinary wonders.

There are also markets at Notre-Dame, Montmartre, gare de l’Est, Auteuil, Trocadéro au Champs de Mars, the Tuileries, the Hôtel de Ville, and Saint-Germain des Prés.

Ile-de-France

Beyond the periph’ the biggest Christmas Market in the greater Paris region is at La Defense and runs from November 23rd to December 24th, where some 350 chalets will be occupied by artisans and traders selling gifts for the season.

Bordeaux

From November 25th to December 25th, the Allées de Tourny is transformed into a winter wonderland, with the usual array of stalls selling festive gifts, and treats while the unmistakable aroma of a foodie Christmas fills the air.

Bayonne

Bayonne invites visitors to rediscover the magic of Christmas from December 3rd to January 2nd – from the Ferris wheel on Place de la Liberté, Santa Claus village in Les Halles, Christmas market on Place du Réduit, lantern evenings, parades in town… to delight young and old alike.

Small towns

Most towns in France have some sort of Christmas market, even if it’s just for a couple of days, and sometimes these are nicer and more relaxed than the big events.

Local craftsmen and shops take stalls and you can also try local food specialties – such as Toulouse sausage and aligot in the south, hot spiced cider in Brittany or the ’12 desserts of Christmas’ in Provence.

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